Experts’ Global: Hi Abinash, thank you so much for joining us today! May we request you to please share your journey in your own words?
Abinash: Absolutely! Like most MBA applicants-to-be in the early 2000s, I studied engineering during my undergrad, after which I started working with Tata Consultancy Services as a software developer. In my first job, I had the opportunity to develop my interpersonal skills, grow my technical abilities, and focus on the next stage of my evolution. I began to think about whether I wanted to continue working in IT or move on from purely technical roles. An MBA seemed a good platform through which to transition to an IT-related role with increased business-side responsibilities.
Reaching out to Experts’ Global for MBA admissions consulting, I got insights into the costs associated with an MBA and the GMAT, and put my plans on the back burner until 2016. In 2016, I moved to the US as a part of my job, and with the location advantage, once again connected with Experts’ Global to revitalize my MBA plans. I completed my MBA in 2021, and am currently working as a product strategy and program manager.
Experts’ Global: In your opinion, what are a few factors or actions you took that made all the difference?
Abinash: Initially, I struggled to get out of my comfort zone and prepare for the GMAT. I had almost 12-hour work days, after which I had to find three free hours daily for GMAT studies. Using a GMAT online course also helped keep my studies on track. Looking back, I would say that mentally readying oneself for the grind of studying daily is a crucial first step.
Experts’ Global: With the benefit of hindsight, what do you think were a few mistakes you committed in the process?
Abinash: My biggest mistake was not reaching out to enough people during the application process. I would say that even if you have a faint notion of doing an MBA, make sure to speak to as many people as you can about their own MBA journeys and the obstacles they faced along the way. Had I reached out to people when I first thought about doing my MBA, I would have learned much about the process earlier and had more clarity about my plans.
Experts’ Global: What advice will you give to future GMAT aspirants?
Abinash: I would say that if you are thinking of taking GMAT, make sure that you focus exclusively on having your target score in hand before you proceed to the applications phase. Try a free GMAT practice test to see where you stand. When you begin your GMAT prep, set your test date for around four months after, as the syllabus is not all that extensive. It helps if you can study for around three hours daily at a minimum, and for eight hours on the weekends.
Since a GMAT score is valid for five years, focusing on and acing the exam will buy you considerable time to concentrate on the rest of your MBA application process fully. Also, if a business school says that the median GMAT score for its MBA class is 690, as an Indian male, especially if you are from an engineering background, aim for a 740 on the GMAT at least.
Experts’ Global: What are a few suggestions that you will give to future aspirants regarding their MBA applications?
Abinash: For MBA applications, I would say that after you finish the GMAT, research the schools that would give you the best chances at admission with your score. Also, supposing you are targeting ten business schools, make sure to do the research on all ten schools and complete their applications at a stretch. I say so because I have noticed that many MBA applications have similar essay prompts and questions; thus, working on one’s applications altogether would keep one’s responses throughout consistent.
Further, interview preparations are very important. Even with 7/10 essays, a 10/10 interview can land you a good admit. Cover the basics that crop up in interviews, such as why you want to do an MBA, thoroughly!
Experts’ Global: Can you describe your interview experience with the school?
Abinash: I first started working on my applications in August, and my first interview was held in September, for one of my dream schools! I was very nervous, could not get in a flow while answering the interviewers, and botched the interview. However, the misstep gave me the confidence to prepare better, and the conviction that I had to ace the next interview I attempted. I even reached out to one of my previous interviewers who agreed to help me with my practice, and that helped me immensely.
One also knows that there are some general questions that are likely to come up in MBA interviews. Questions about one’s MBA motivations, interests, and background are common, and responses to the same must be at one’s fingertips. Focusing my MBA interview prep on these basics combined with my increased confidence helped me ace the interview at Carlson, just the second school that I had applied to!
Experts’ Global: Can you tell us about your MBA experience?
Abinash: If you ask anyone from the ’21 batch of any MBA the world over, they would tell you that their experience has been very unique. In my case too, half of my MBA was in-person, and the other half was online.
My first semester, held in-person, was great. At Carlson, 22 of the total 64 credits are to be completed in the first semester, which means that I had my hands full. The second semester accounted for 20 more credits, so I was done with most of my coursework in the first two semesters. The pandemic hit soon after, and classes shifted to online mode. The third semester was spent watching recorded lectures and working on case studies alone, with reduced interaction among the class as a whole.
We also had problems with our internships, as most of them were canceled due to the pandemic. Job searches were also made harder, as we could not access on-campus employment resources and placement opportunities. Overall, the second half of my MBA involved fewer assignments and work but less access to opportunities too.
Experts’ Global: What would you like to say about your job search experience during the MBA and what tips will you give to future candidates?
Abinash: The most important advice for Indian aspirants joining US- or Canada-based MBAs is that they should begin preparing for their jobs even before joining their MBA classes. There are many resources on LinkedIn that can help you get started with job preparation, and I am personally happy to help with the same if someone reaches out.
Make sure that you are prepared for your job search, ready with your resume, and equipped for your interview well before the MBA starts. Time goes by so fast during the MBA that, before you know it, it is time to apply for internships! I have found that the students who start preparing for their jobs the earliest usually get the best internship and job offers.
In my case, I got several internship offers, all of which were either rescinded or canceled due to COVID-19. Thankfully, I was able to land an internship with a start-up and gain a foothold in the US start-up ecosystem. This did not convert into a full-time offer though, and from the third semester onwards, I had to start looking for a job again. At the time, the presidential elections were in progress in the US and companies were not sponsoring work visas.
The process of landing a job was quite tough for international students such as myself and I must have reached out to at least 1000 people and applied to over 200 jobs before I found success. Initially, each rejection would discourage me immensely, but I relied on my classmates to keep my morale up, and eventually, all of us ended up landing jobs!
Further, Indian students should know that they need H1B or L1 sponsorships to work in the US, and this reduces our opportunities to 10% of the jobs available. One must have the proper mindset that one might have to struggle to win through in the end.
Experts’ Global: What would you like to say about your experiences and learning from managing the application timeline?
Abinash: As I said earlier, I did not do enough research or speak to enough people prior to applying for the MBA, so relying on Experts’ Global’s MBA application help was beneficial for me. Working on my profiling questionnaire in the process helped me clarify my own MBA motivations and reasons, which were my biggest takeaways, personally.
I also got access to the Experts’ Global GMAT test series, and all 15 of the mocks included. Working on the same helped me increase my final GMAT score and win a higher scholarship for my MBA!
Experts’ Global: Please tell us about your journey post-MBA. How did the entire pre-application experience and your MBA experience contribute to your growth post-MBA?
Abinash: The pre-application phase allowed me to introspect deeply. I had the chance to reflect on my life journey, and this reflection helped me during my job search as well!
Experts’ Global: What would be your final message to MBA aspirants out there?
Abinash: I would say it would be a big mistake for aspirants to keep postponing their GMAT dates. Start by getting your GMAT done since your score will stay valid for five years. Further, the MBA is a life-changing journey, and one that involves risks, pain, and hardships, but is all worth it in the end!
Experts’ Global: Thank you so much for giving us your time and interviewing with us. We are sure all the students and future MBA aspirants are going to learn so much from your journey!
Abinash: Thank you as well!